Today’s daily politics briefing
Labour has warned chancellor Rishi Sunak against raising taxes in his Budget, urging him instead to focus on securing the recovery. Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said now is “not the time” for tax rises, but signalled the party could support a hike in corporation tax in future.
Trust in Boris Johnson’s government to “do the right thing” has tumbled from 60 per cent at the first lockdown to just 44 per cent, according to a new survey. Poll analysts said the integrity of the UK “may now be under threat”, with voters expressing more trust in devolved leaders.
Elsewhere, the DUP has defended its controversial move to halt work on inspection posts for Brexit checks in Northern Ireland. The DUP’s Brexit spokesperson has declared “guerrilla warfare” against the protocol, but Sinn Fein has accused the party of “foolish” games.
‘Vital for Britain’s reputation that aid budget cut is temporary’
A former Foreign Office diplomat has warned it is “vital” for Britain’s reputation the government ensures a contentious multi-billion pound cut to the overseas aid budget remains a “temporary” measure.
In his first public remarks on the issue since leaving his role as permanent secretary, Sir Simon McDonald said the timing of the spending reduction “could not have been worse” with the Department for International Development being merged into the Foreign Office just months earlier.
Lord McDonald, who will deliver his maiden speech in the House of Lords this week afer being awarded a life peerage, claimed the UK remained in the “premier league” for aid spending, but told The Independent: “There’s no way to present this as a great move”.
Political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports:
Sam Hancock1 March 2021 15:26
Brand Sunak’s latest offering
Rishi Sunak’s latest slick social media output offers a Sky Sports-style interview – asked the questions by his own team. He says Treasury staff have done a “genuinely heroic job” in responding to the pandemic.
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 15:10
DUP minister to hold showdown talks over border move
The DUP’s agriculture minister Gordon Lyons has been challenged by Northern Ireland executive colleagues over his bold decision to halt work on inspection posts for Brexit port checks.
Ministers from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance Party argued that he does not have the authority to act unilaterally on an issue so significant.
It is understood the NI executive’s attorney general Brenda King concurred with this view on Monday and advised that Lyons would be required to bring such proposals to the wider executive. Lyons is set to hold discussions with King ahead of further crunch talks on the matter on Tuesday.
While the DUP’s Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson claimed the party would wage “guerrilla warfare” against protocol arrangements, Sinn Fein has called the move “foolish”.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman insisted the issue was one for the NI executive to resolve. “We will obviously will continue to liaise and speak to them.”
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 14:59
European Arrest Warrant replacement facing ‘multiple’ legal challenges
The post-Brexit replacement for the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is facing multiple legal challenges, Police Scotland has said. Brexit has left forces with “suboptimal measures” for dealing with crime across the continent, MSPs have been told.
Holyrood’s policing committee heard that the legality of the fast-track arrangement introduced to replace the EAW is now facing challenges in the courts.
Police Scotland deputy chief constable Will Kerr told MSPs: “There’s a number of ongoing legal challenges to the UK in respect of extradition and the European Arrest Warrant, they will take some time to resolve.”
He explained that the replacement system retained “mandated time limits for surrender” to return suspects to Scotland quickly and an executive power of arrest for warrants issued from the start of January.
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 14:49
PM: UK has one of the world’s ‘toughest’ border regimes
Boris Johnson said he was “absolutely confident” that the Budget would “build on everything we have done to look after the businesses” and paves the way for a “strong, jobs-led recovery”.
During a visit to Stoke-on-Trent on Monday morning, the PM also insisted the UK has “one of the toughest border regimes anywhere in the world” despite the Brazilian coronavirus strain being detected.
Among his other interesting remarks to reporters, Johnson claimed the government “moved as fast as we could” to launch its quarantine hotel policy – despite criticism from Labour he has been too slow.
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 14:21
Labour hints at support for corporation tax hike in future
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said now is “not the time” for tax rises, but signalled that she could support an increase in corporation tax in the future.
It comes amid a split in the party over the mooted plan, after reports suggested the chancellor is considering hiking corporation tax to as much as 25 per cent from 19 per cent.
Some Labour MPs have arguing for a hike since it’s a progressive tax. Ms Dodds said that over the last 10 years Conservative-led governments have “pulled the UK further and further away from the average corporation tax level of OECD nations”.
But she added: “Should the chancellor be focused on particularly imposing additional tax rises right now? … Now is not the time for immediate tax rises – it is the time for a chancellor focused on jobs and securing our recovery.”
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 14:01
Brexit team ‘outstanding’, says departing Barnier
Michel Barnier – who is finally stepping down as the EU Commission’s head of task force for relations with the UK – has thanked his Brexit negotiating team.
“Each and every person was outstanding,” he tweeted. “Today is the 1st day of the rest of our lives.”
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 13:51
Post-Brexit checks in Northern Ireland are a matter for Stormont, Downing Street says
A controversial decision to halt work on permanent inspection posts for Brexit port checks in Northern Ireland is a matter for the devolved administration, No 10 said.
On Friday, DUP agriculture minister Gordon Lyons ordered officials to stop work on new permanent border control posts at ports in Belfast and Larne.
Opposition parties accused the minister of a political “stunt”, adding he did not have the authority to stop full implementation of the checks.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “That is a matter for the Northern Ireland executive and we obviously remain in close contact with them.
“Goods, including food, continue to flow through ports in Northern Ireland with the existing, interim agri-foods facilities in place.”
Asked whether halting work would be a breach of the Northern Ireland protocol, agreed between the UK and the European Union, the spokesman again said it was a matter for the devolved executive.
“We will obviously will continue to liaise and speak to them.”
Matt Mathers1 March 2021 13:17
PM promises ‘ruthless’ crack down on people traffickers
Boris Johnson has said the government is determined to crack down on people traffickers smuggling migrants across the English Channel.
Speaking on a visit to Stoke-on-Trent, the PM said: “It is outrageous that the gangsters, the people smugglers, these thugs, are still putting people’s lives at risks in the way that they are, taking money to help people cross the Channel in unseaworthy vessels, risking their lives.
“What we are going to do is to absolutely, ruthlessly stiffen the sentences for anybody who is involved in this kind of people smuggling and trafficking human beings across the Channel.”
Home secretary Priti Patel wants to upgrade the maximum term for people smugglers to increase the average length of sentences of those found guilty.
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 12:18
Our ‘ugly’ Brexit: View from across the pond
The latest piece on Britain’s Brexit by The New York Times focuses on the bad blood created by last month’s row over vaccines.
Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, is among the experts telling the US newspaper that No 10 appears stuck in old habits of antagonism – despite significant trade disruption.
“Brexit is the gift that keeps giving for the Johnson government,” he said. “In Europe, there is this sense that the UK keeps trying to score points. The risk is that the Europeans will feel the need to smack back.”
Timothy Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London adds: “Why not kick the EU when it’s down? That’s long been a reflex for this government, and it is very hard to get out of this reflex.”
Adam Forrest1 March 2021 12:12